Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Painful experiences can be difficult to avoid, and if an experience is perceived by the person as life-threatening and very scary, that situation can be called traumatic. People, especially children, can be overwhelmed by traumatic events and can enter “survival mode” when they feel their lives are in danger. When we go through trauma, it can fundamentally alter our sense of safety in the world and has long-term effects on our nervous systems.
Many people have experienced childhood trauma of one kind or another, whether emotional, sexual or physical abuse, the loss of a parent or a loved one. Other traumas include assault, witnessing violence, serious or chronic illness, invasive medical procedures, abandonment, neglect, and natural disasters.
New research is finding a link between those childhood traumas and physical health and researchers have demonstrated how trauma early in life can strongly impact and potentially trigger the development of chronic illness. In addition to mental illness, victims of child abuse are more susceptible to developing allergies and asthma, autoimmune disorders, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders.
Several specific characteristics occur more frequently in victims of childhood abuse and might influence the development of chronic illness. These include poor sleep quality, elevated perceived stress, depression, anxiety, high body weight and small social networks.
They have found that just having the condition of depression causes decreased blood flow to the brain and increases the mediators of inflammation in the body. What we think and feel will have a dramatic effect.
Since we’ve dealt with some of them since childhood, they just seem normal. We have developed defenses, walls that we have built up around ourselves that we don’t even know how to function outside of because that’s just been who we are. These defenses, while they kept us safe at the time, now can cause problems for us in our present life.
What happens is that the mind and body are already maxed out from trauma in childhood, and then when we are adults, another stressor comes in and there are just no reserves left to deal with it. Our nervous system is overwhelmed, and we have lost our ability to self-regulate and deal productively with the world around us. So, no wonder we become emotionally reactive, impatient, angry, and cry all the time.
A Harvard Mastery of Stress Study found that the men who reported that they felt close to both their father and their mother had about a 25% chance of developing a physical illness. And those who were not close to either one, whether it be their father or their mother, their risk went up to about 80 to 90%. So it was very protective to feel close to both parents.
To feel close to one parent also was protective, maybe it dropped your risk to around 50%, but to be close to both parents caused them to have the least risk of developing these conditions. So the feeling of being loved, and our emotions play an important role in our physical and mental health. We may not realize the huge impact that our relationship with our mother and father has on us.
That is why treatments to help with trauma are so important. Methods such as neurofeedback, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing heal trauma so a fundamental shift can occur and the nervous system can regain its capacity for self-regulation.
If you have experienced a serious trauma, or are re-experiencing one in your life today, I can help. Please email me at [email protected] or call 310-314-6933 to explore the best steps to help heal your life.